Aiken County Standoff Highlights Mental Illness - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Aiken County Standoff Highlights Mental Illness

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Aiken County, SC -

An Aiken County man is in custody tonight after deputies say he used a flamethrower against them and started a standoff that lasted several hours.

That standoff shutdown several miles of US Highway 1 in Aiken from near Graniteville to the Aiken Walmart.

Officers went to the man's home to serve probate papers around 10 AM Tuesday morning. They say the man--who is not being identified--used the homemade flamethrower when they tried to enter the house. The SWAT team was eventually able to force him out using a chemical agent.

SWAT cleared the scene without injuries; assault and battery charges are pending.

Ashley Bridges spoke with the man's sister who says there is a bigger story behind this story.

"He's a sweet person, very gentle, wouldn't hurt a fly," Tammer said, "but when you have a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, you think everyone in the world is out to get you, so he's my brother, but at the same time he's not.

Tammer's 36 year old brother is the man who investigators say engaged a SWAT team in an hours long standoff at this home.  

"He was crying for help," Tammer said, "and there was no one willing to give him help until he threatened to hurt someone else and himself."

"We want to create the biggest safe zone that we can create for the deputies, and to keep everything safe for the community," Sgt. Jason Feemster of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office said.

While the standoff inconvenienced hundreds of people in a traffic zone that was shut down, the issue behind that standoff affects one in four Americans:  Mental illness.

"A lot of these violent crimes taking place they're people who have mental disabilities, nobody wants to fess up and say that's what's taking place, they just rather say someone did this horrendous crime," Tammer said.

Tammer says her brother has schizophrenia; he's been medicated for 12 years, but recently became unable to afford that medication.

"The medication, it costs two or three hundred dollars a month, if not more," Tammer said, "and he just could not afford it."

Mental illness can be an ongoing battle that can break a family's resolve.  

"I've gotten to the point where I'm numb, we've tried over and over again," Tammer said.

But, she said she still wants to tell other families, 'Don't give up,' and to tell lawmakers to listen up:

"Just as humans what can we do to help people with mental disabilities; they're human just like us, they want help," she said.

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